President's Letter - March 17, 2003

President Scott S. Cowen
Tulane University

Dear Alumni, Colleagues and Friends: 

undefinedThese are uncertain times for our nation and our world. Discussions of war and economic uncertainty make it tough to focus on day-to-day matters and even more difficult to make long-term plans.

Yet that is what we must do, and are doing at Tulane University. As a university president, I cannot foresee what the future will bring, but I do firmly believe that, whatever the needs of our world, our nation, our city or our communities, it is our institutions of higher education—the young people we are educating today and the cutting-edge research at which we excel—that will provide the solutions.

The value of partnerships is underscored during times such as these. Nationally and internationally, such partners are our political and military allies, or our economic associates. In local, regional and community terms, we rely on our institutions and our neighbors for support and partnership. Successful partnerships are not a sign of weakness but of power and leadership; a good partnership recognizes the strengths of its members and blends them to create a new and stronger dynamic. (John Donne was right about that island thing!)

In today’s environment, it is more efficient, not to mention wiser, to pool resources rather than go it alone. Partnering often allows us to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

That is why I’d like to spend a few moments writing about some of the vital partnerships we have formed at Tulane: some are new, some go back for years. Some work to benefit the world at large, others strengthen our region or community, and still others serve to bolster the university itself so that we can continue doing what we do best— educating young people who can think, act and lead the way in our changing world. These partnerships represent only a few of the many that Tulane enjoys.

Fast Facts

The Tulane-Xavier National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, one of only 14 such centers in the country, is a prime example of a successful partnership. The center, which focuses on women’s health issues, is a collaboration of Tulane University Health Sciences Center, Tulane University Hospital & Clinic, Xavier University, Dillard University, Loyola University and dozens of local partners.

Toward a Stronger Society

undefinedWhat makes a society strong? What makes the world a better place for all of its people? How can longlasting, positive social change be effected?

These are the types of questions addressed by many of the partnerships Tulane has formed with other institutions, with federal agencies, and with foundations. Dozens of partnerships throughout the university, from individual research projects to national centers of research and scholarship, are looking at health issues, urban problems, technological innovations, legal inroads—all toward making our world a better place in which to live, work and thrive.

Following are just a few of these partnerships.

The National Institutes of Health has partnered with the Tulane University Hypertension and Renal Center of Excellence to establish a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence that will accelerate research efforts already under way in the field of hypertension and its effects on the kidneys. The $10.8 million NIH grant establishes this as the first Center of Biomedical Research Excellence to focus exclusively on high blood pressure and reflects the excellence of ongoing Tulane research in this important health field.

The National Center for the Urban Community at Tulane and Xavier Universities combines the strengths of Tulane and Xavier with the support of dozens of local organizations to provide not only research into solving our urban areas’ most pressing problems but also practical programs in our own communities. A Resident Employment Center, for example, helps public housing residents with job development and placement services, while the University/Interagency Collaborative partners the universities with public schools. More than a thousand students from Tulane and Xavier are working in local schools as tutors, volunteers and testing facilitators. Other center initiatives involve health and wellness, housing, and race and culture.

The biomedical engineering department teams up with the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation each year to sponsor student innovation projects that benefit the disabled. A paraplegic special education teacher, for example, was provided with a studentdesigned lift system to help her with floor-to-wheelchair transfer. Another team of students designed a special bath chair for a blind 3-year-old cerebral palsy patient. Each year, teams of talented Tulane biomedical engineering students work to solve a problem and develop innovative means of improving life for the disabled.

The Leanne Knot Violence Against Women Prevention Project, a consortium project of Tulane University, Southern University at New Orleans and the University of New Orleans, works with campus and community groups to help women who have been victimized and educate women on safety issues. The project is named in memory of Leanne Knot, a Tulane School of Social Work student who was murdered in 1997.

undefinedIn the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the Center for Infectious Diseases brings together researchers from the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and School of Medicine, Louisiana State University, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and other organizations to pursue vital research in such areas as AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, as well as serve as an increasingly important informational source on bioterrorism.

Fast Facts

The Tulane National Primate Research Center is one of only eight nationally funded primate centers under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health.

Toward a Stronger Community

I have often said that a university can only be as strong as the community in which its people live and work. Tulane University needs a strong New Orleans and a strong Louisiana. Toward that end, many of our partnerships are formed not only with a national and international picture in mind, but are more locally or regionally focused. Here are just a few.

Louisiana has the highest cancer rates in the nation, so I am particularly excited about the recent founding of the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium. The consortium pairs the Tulane Cancer Center with the cancer center at Louisiana State University, with support from the Louisiana Legislature. Eventually, we hope to house the individual Tulane and LSU cancer centers under one roof in order to achieve recognition as a National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center.

Ten years ago, Tulane University joined forces with the Shell Foundation to form the Louisiana Alliance for Education Reform. Since then, 38 other foundations and organizations have provided support for the program, which is aimed at working with local businesses, educators and parents to improve Louisiana’s K-12 public schools. In the last decade, the alliance has had an impact on more than 40,000 students in 41 schools across several Louisiana parishes.

Tulane and Northwestern State University have teamed up to promote the study of the Creole language, people and culture. The first major initiative of this new partnership, which became official on Jan. 17, will be an international conference this October that brings together scholars and members of the Creole community worldwide to share research findings and family histories.

Much has been written over the years about the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities, and certainly the important work of center researchers from both institutions in such areas as environmental estrogens and wetlands destruction are vital not only to our region but throughout the world. The center is also involved in a number of partnerships to study the Mississippi River. For example, CBR researchers have partnered with the Naval Oceanographic Office, COTS Technology and researchers from other universities to form the Long-term Estuary Assessment Group. This group addresses the environmental decline of the very important Lower Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico estuary systems.

undefinedLikewise, much has been written about our relatively new Office of Service Learning at Tulane, but it is such a vitally important concept within our educational philosophy that I would be remiss in omitting it. The office forms partnerships not only with departments within the university but with schools and outreach organizations throughout New Orleans to develop a community service component within our academic structure. This “classroom without walls” benefits not only the organizations with which our students volunteer, but also the students themselves as they develop a sense of compassion and empowerment that will last a lifetime. This year, more than 750 students will have donated some 24,000 hours of service at more than 40 sites. I should note here that while the Office of Service Learning consolidates many of our service components, it is far from the entire story of service learning at Tulane. Both the Tulane School of Medicine and the Tulane Law School, for example, include service learning components as requirements for graduation.

Fast Facts

The Deep South Regional Humanities Center at Tulane University blends university resources with support and expertise from local, state, national and international agencies to promote research on and in the region and support regional projects and grassroots efforts.

Toward a Stronger Tulane

All of the partnerships mentioned thus far not only take advantage of Tulane’s strengths but also contribute to making the university even stronger. Every symposium that brings scholars of international renown to the university, each research center that attracts top new faculty and students to Tulane, each activity that makes the university a more valued part of its community and region—all of these work toward maintaining and increasing Tulane’s status as a distinctive and distinguished university. What follows are a few examples of partnerships specifically aimed at building a stronger Tulane.

“Thoughtful play” and “playful thought” are the ideas behind the Tulane Interdisciplinary Experiences, or TIDES, program. These innovative programs aimed at first-year students partner a variety of Tulane disciplines to help students get to know some of our most distinguished faculty members on an informal basis while at the same timegetting to know more about a fascinating group of interdisciplinary subjects. Recent TIDES topics have included “Understanding Your Classmates: World Cultures and Religions,” “Our Digital World,” and “The Music and Culture of New Orleans.”

More than 15 years ago, admiralty law and shipping firms throughout the United States joined with the national Maritime Law Association and Admiralty Law Institute, as well as the John G. Weinmann family, to consolidate Tulane’s activities in admiralty and maritime law into the Maritime Law Center, a Tulane Center of Excellence. The center, whose advisory committee includes distinguished admiralty attorneys and shipping executives, has helped elevate the Tulane Law School’s status as one of the world’s foremost maritime and admiralty law programs.

In a sense, Tulane is in partnership with all of its students, but the university has a special relationship with its outstanding student-athletes. From advising to tutoring, from working with schedules to facilitating community interaction, groups from throughout the university join the athletics department in providing a supportive and successful academic environment for our student-athletes. As a result, our student-athletes are national leaders in terms of graduation rates among all college and university athletes—as one magazine recently noted, if the college football rankings were based on graduation rates, Tulane would be in the championship game.

Finally, no mention of partnerships would be complete without including our friends and donors, individual and corporate, large and small, without whom Tulane University simply could not continue to function, much less thrive. Your partnerships with Tulane help build buildings, educate young minds, fund world-changing research, and even keep the lights on.

To read more about Tulane University partnerships, including links to the Web sites of the programs mentioned here, please see my 2002 Report of the President.



Scott S. Cowen

Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638